Nightwing #3 Review

by Andrew Hurst, CMRO Contributing Writer

Nightwing

Issue #03

Written by Kyle Higgins, Art by Eduardo Pansica

Published: January 2012

Why is Nightwing so darn cool? He has a lot of the same attributes we love about Batman, but with three times the likeability. The writer, Kyle Higgins, has put all of that on display with this mini mystery surrounding Dick Grayson in this first arc, and though it’s not the former side-kick’s deepest adventure, it’s hard not love the newly red clad crusader.

Dick Grayson (the man, not the hero) has a target on his head by a hired gun. Meanwhile, the Haley Circus ghosts of Grayson’s past are back in a big — and extremely convenient — way. With Mr. Haley himself piratically on his death bed, he hands the circus over to Grayson, and later gets caught in the middle of the bounty hunter’s search for Grayson’s blood. As the circus family mourns Haley’s death, Nightwing sets out to end the chaos surrounding her personal life once and for all.

This issue — and the story as a whole — reminds me of a really great B movie. It has a very endearing attitude and charm to it, but the writing and finesse of a bad CW drama. Dick Grayson is a great male fantasy archetype, combining the badass superhero, Nightwing, that we all want to be, plus the sloppy bachelor lifestyle that is so relatable. And he isn’t without his emotional layers. Grayson dealing with personal emotional conflicts, as well as physical ones, come through in this issue, but, sadly, at the cost of organic story telling. The relationship between Grayson and his old red headed circus flame from his past, Raya, is incredibly forced with no attempt at building any sort of natural chemistry. And I laughed at Raya’s “You’re not the Dick Grayson I knew and loved oh so long ago…” bit (I’m paraphrasing), forcing Dick to do some considerable soul searching, and resulting in a simple drawn out apology sending him back into Raya’s arms without another thought.

Though the story takes a few odd and abrupt turns and jumps through time that leave you a tad confused, it’s certainly action packed. Eddy Barrows’s style is crisp, not quite capturing the agility of the main character, but offering some great splash pages and action poses.

Nightwing #3, and this story as a whole so far, succeeds for having all the ingredients for a great comic book, even if those ingredients aren’t mixing as well as they should. And for just being so darn cool.

CMRO Update (11/27/2011)

Added

Punisher #5 Review

by Andrew Hurst, CMRO Contributing Writer

The Punisher

Issue #05

Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Marco Checchetto

Published: November 2011

Punisher continues to be one of the most well produced comic books on shelves today. Issue #5 takes place 100 days after Frank’s airial brawl with the Vulture which left him with some much needed healing time. Sporting a beard and eye patch, Punisher resides in a barn in Far Rockaway, Queens where he tries to adjust to his new handicap and encounters a young boy, in awe of Frank, believing he’s some kind of black ops soldier on a mission.

One of the great things about Punisher comics are all the different characters Frank meets and interacts with through out his war, and it’s a testament to Greg Rucka’s brilliance as a writer to lock you into caring so much about a character with only a few panels worth of dialogue.

Ruck’s run on this title — like most of his work — has moved at a very methodical pace, and for the few subplots moving forward in this issue, I had to go back to previous issues to refresh my memory on their details, which I can’t really complain about because — if I know Rucka (and I do) — it all has a very specific purpose and will deliver a worthwhile payoff.

The show stealer, however, is Marco Checchetto’s amazing pencils. Textures, lighting and blood splatters look great, and transitions from a snowy far to a dimly lit barn are seamless with detailed settings. His style is sexy without being provocative and never takes away from the narrative, which I applaud. A lesser artist may have focused more on the sexy and less on the emotion, killing it completely.

Punisher #5 is not a great place to jump on this story, but the creators still give an emotional tale worth your money. The only problem with this book is there aren’t enough pages per issue for more of it.

Wonder Woman #3 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Wonder Woman

Issue #03

Written by Brian Azzarello, Art by Cliff Chiang

Published: January 2012

Wonder Woman is quickly becoming my favourite series of the new 52, even with its flaws. While the title character remains somewhat distanced from the reader, the supporting cast is full of visually interesting and fun characters – Hera, cloaked in peacock feathers symbolic of her mythological counterpart, is my guilty favourite so far – that I’m eager to learn more about. Zola, a human girl pregnant by Zeus, is also interesting – especially since there is no demonization of her sexuality, only an adult acknowledgement that yes, she likes sex, who cares?Wonderful. 

The Amazonian culture is explored in this issue, where the warriors feel the deaths of their sisters deeply, and discord results. Strife, another character with a great design and menacing presence, is true to her name, and forces Hippolyta to reveal Diana’s earth-shattering true origins. It’s an intriguing reimagining, although I’m not fully on board yet. I’m eager to see how Zeus will be characterized from now on; whether or not the narrative will condemn him. Hera herself, while threatening, does appear somewhat sympathetic, in that she is married to a man who constantly reinforces that he does not love her.  All of this makes for legitimate character drama, and with the backdrop of Greek mythology, I’m definitely curious to see where it’s all going.

There’s something a little odd about the art. It’s not as smooth or polished as some other titles, and does feel a little rough around the edges in places, but ultimately it’s an effective style to pair with the tough, warrior culture of the island of Paradise.

There are some very striking images and scenes despite this, and when Diana burns the bodies of her fallen sisters and makes her final declaration, it’s undeniably cool.

CMRO Update (11/25/2011)

Added

Looking Back: Incredible Hulk #105 (Planet Hulk) Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Incredible Hulk

Issue #105

Written by Greg Pak, Art by Carlo Pagulayan

Published: June 2007

This is the story of the Green Scar. The Eye of Anger. The World Breaker Harkanon. Haarg. Holku. Hulk. And how he finally came home.

These words serve as bookends to the Planet Hulk saga, of which The Incredible Hulk #105 represents the final chapter. When we last left the Hulk, the ship that had exiled him from Earth had just suffered a warp core breach, exploding in the middle of King Hulk’s capital city and threatening the entire planet. We knew from the beginning that this story was going to end sadly, but we didn’t know exactly how much knife-twisting there would be until this issue.

The Hulk’s Warbound are scattered across Sakaar on their various diplomatic missions at the start of the issue. The Hulk and Caiera aren’t nearly so lucky, being trapped right at ground zero of the blast. The Hulk shields Caiera with his body while yelling her name, to which Caiera tells him that she will never leave him. Ominous words indeed.

Across Sakaar, the effects of the warp core breach shake the planet. The fragile tectonic plates start to crack under the force, causing Hiroim to sink down into the lava, convinced that the planet has finally met its doom. Hiroim is saved by Korg, who tells his friend to either pick himself up and get going or that the stone man will jump down in the lava and die with his friend. Loyalty has been a big theme in Planet Hulk, and here we see friends once again willing to die for friends. Luckily, Korg won’t be dying right yet, as his words get Hiroim going again.

The art, as always, is spectacular here, but there is one minor complaint to be lodged about the coloring. Given the massive amount of destruction and loss of life, the Warbound are naturally shaken to tears by the event – even the Brood. The problem comes when the colorist didn’t properly color in the Brood’s tears, making them almost unnoticeable as they were the same color as the creature’s hide. Why is this so important? Because among fans at the time that this issue came out, there was a lot of speculation that the Brood, a member of the species that had long antagonized the X-Men, was one of the saboteurs who had helped destroy Sakaar. Had we readers properly seen her weeping, it would have greatly changed the conspiracy theories about her involvement – perhaps not absolving her of suspicion, but leaving a lot more doubt as to her actual role in the destruction of Sakaar.

Despite that hiccup, this issue provides us with more of the sweeping, grand art that we’ve seen – but emphasizing tragedy rather than light-hearted action this time. This is most apparent at the climax of the issue, where Caiera, killed despite the Hulk’s attempt to save her, disintegrates into dust while still in the Hulk’s arms – a sad parallel to the little girl who died in Caiera’s arms just before she joined the Warbound against the Red King.

And here I have to lodge my other complaint about this issue: the death of Caiera. I don’t believe that it’s badly done, but I do think that it is an instance where writer Greg Pak erred in that he threw away a character with a lot of potential. Caiera was unique among the Hulk’s many love interests over the years. She had the power to fight alongside our jade giant. She loved both the Hulk and Banner, recognizing them as equals. All that said, she fell for the Hulk first, as opposed to most other love interests whose primary concern was the man inside the monster. She had chemistry and character, and even the best writers can only strike lightning like that a few times in her career. But now she’s literally dust in the wind, leaving this character gone before her potential was fully realized.

That said, the purpose of Planet Hulk was to leave the Hulk madder than he had ever been before so Marvel could present their next big event, World War Hulk. And the death of a great character like Caiera, not to mention the Hulk’s unborn child, is enough to accomplish that. Moreover, it’s enough to make the readers angry as well. We just spent 14 issues watching the Hulk rise from slave to king and becoming a hero to this planet. Now thanks to the carelessness of the Illuminati, everything has been undone. Granted, we don’t know for sure that there wasn’t something else going on with the warp core breach, but had the supposed heroes that make up the Illuminati considered giving the Hulk his right of due process or even just checking to make sure the ship landed where they expected it to, then millions of people on Sakaar would still be alive. The heroes were more like villains, and people have died because of them. So now the audience is at least partially on the Hulk’s side, waiting for him to mete out green-fisted justice.

And that’s what we’re promised to close out Planet Hulk. The Hulk goes into a rage, smashing mountains while screaming, “Bring them back!” which is a nice display of how even this more intelligent version of the Hulk is very childlike in some ways and capable of throwing one monster of a tantrum. The Hulk’s rage ends with a quieter, “Bring her back,” which is one more tear-jerker in case you have a heart of stone and don’t feel sad at what the character has lost yet. Then the rest of the Warbound arrive and give the chance for the Hulk to seek vengeance. They climb into their great stone ship and head for Earth. The Hulk forges a sword as we get the captions that opened the saga once again. This time, the caption, “And how he came home” is on the final splash page – an amazing picture of the Hulk on top of the stone ship, his sword out and ready for battle, speeding through space with his mouth open in a scream of rage.

Ladies and gentlemen, the heroes of Marvel Earth are officially screwed.

And that’s the end of Planet Hulk. How does it measure up when all is said and done? Quite frankly, it’s one of the best Hulk stories ever told, and that is not hyperbole. The Hulk has gone to alien planets before, but never have they been as fully realized as Sakaar. Never have we had 14 full issues, including a giant-sized issue #100 and a pair of bonus stories in Giant-Size Hulk #1, to fully explore the ramifications of the Hulk getting exiled. The writing starts out as fun, then becomes more serious, and finally ends with a well-executed tragedy. The art is consistently wonderful throughout. And in an age of decompressed storytelling, this saga never felt padded out for a trade paperback. Every single issue contributes to the ultimate resolution, and every single one has a lot to offer readers.

Planet Hulk is truly a Marvel masterpiece. If you haven’t read it yet, go and check out the trade paperback. Issue for issue, you will not find a better collection of stories from the last ten years.

Moon Knight #7

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

Moon Knight

Issue #07

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Alex Maleev

Published: January 2012

Oh it is getting wild now! Michael Bendis has done a marvelous job turning the storyline to make the split personality issue a light subplot instead of a main idea. This really allows the story to progress. At first I was worried he planned to include constant arguing inside Moon Knight’s head but now it is just here and there which adds entertainment. Also I like how comfortable he has made the topic. When Marc admits, “I hear voices,” I knew that Bendis was really on the right track with the story. The creative aspect of what happens combined with the future possibilities has me very happy about this series.

Alex Maleev is really growing on me as an artist. I think in this issue he has done well to combine the original intent of the style he started with for a very specific ‘look’ for this book. But the colors have become sharper in the panels creating a better contrast that allows to art to stand out better. In some of the previous issues things were so dark that certain aspects blended together.

Overall this is a two -thumbs up ride. It is interesting with some complexity and a definite direction. The arts seems to be getting better and perhaps we are heading towards something special with this Moon Knight series that I have not seen in a long while from him. I hope Santa stuffs my stocking early this year with issue #8!

CMRO Update (11/22/2011)

Added

Catwoman #3 Review

by Lindsay Young, CMRO Contributing Writer

Catwoman

Issue #3

Written by Christos Gage, Art by Sean Chen

Published: January 2012

Right off the bat, Catwoman #3 pleasantly surprises me by avoiding a Batman-to-the-rescue scenario, choosing instead to let Selina kick a little ass while still duct-taped to a chair. The rest of the issue is a mix of physical violence and emotional turmoil, which makes issue 3 of Catwoman, at least for me, the most enjoyable out of the three.

The art alone is lovely to look at – full of shadows and deep colours. Characters move in convincing ways, and the issue is laid out so that there’s a lot of movement between the panels. Selina herself is particularly expressive, which makes sense given how much emotional torture she’s put through in this issue. It’s also a very action-packed instalment, which means that there’s a lot of great action poses, few of which feel too physics-bending (in terms of the comic book battle scene context, anyway).

The story continues to move along at a rapid pace, but the issue makes good use of its page count. We rocket through a whole lot of story, action and character introspection – and while it might be rushed, it also means that we get a lotgoing on in every instalment. Batman shows up again, and it’s always interesting to see their relationship play out – they seem to be morally oppositional to one another, but at the same time they cling together, caught up in the other whether they’ve seen each other beneath the mask or not. It’s a bond that is both fragile and heated, and it’s compelling every time it’s showcased.

While not perfect, the issue is engaging and visually gratifying. Overall, Catwoman #3 was a satisfying read, offering a ton of violence and angst with rapid pacing and gorgeous artwork.

Incredible Hulk #104 (Planet Hulk) Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Incredible Hulk

Issue #104

Written by Greg Pak, Art by Carlo Pagulayan

Published: May 2007

At the end of Planet Hulk: Allegiance, things were looking pretty good for our jade giant. The Red King of Sakaar had been overthrown, the Hulk had been installed as the new ruler, he had stopped a schism among his Warbound, and he had gained a wife. Unfortunately, comic book law means that the status quo will always return eventually – and for the Hulk, that usually means the destruction of everything and everyone he holds dead. With that in mind, we now turn to The Incredible Hulk #104, which gives us part one of the aptly-named two-part Planet Hulk: Armageddon story. It is with a slight hesitation that I begin to review the first and last days of the Green Scar’s rule as king.

The issue opens with our hero enjoying his short-lived happy ending, cuddling up with his new wife Caiera in bed. He is disturbed by Miek, who summons him to the ruined space shuttle that the Illuminati had sent over. Watching Reed Richards’ message to Bruce Banner, the Hulk gets angry and smashes the screen, then leaves with these cryptic words: “They tried to kill me.”

As with the Hulk’s earlier recount of his origin story where he suggested that Banner tried to kill him in the gamma bomb blast that created him, these words are just begging for fans to run with their own interpretation. It’s a charming quality of Greg Pak’s writing, honestly – rather than tell us what is on the character’s mind, he is giving us hints and letting us draw our own conclusions. It works particularly well with a character with is nearly 50 years old and who has had hundreds of stories told about him. My personal interpretation is that, had Banner wound up being exiled to the happy, uninhabited planet that the Illuminati originally had planned, he would have lived a peaceful life. A peaceful life means no more Hulk, who thrives on conflict and battle. As such, the Hulk would see such an existence as death. But again, that is just one fan’s interpretation – the actual quote is open-ended enough that you can interpret it in any way you like.

Despite the Hulk’s outburst, he seems to have put smashing the Illuminati pretty low on his to-do list. In fact, he seems actively afraid of losing what he has earned on Sakaar, as evidenced by the next scene where he takes Caiera out to the wild steppes where Caeira had given him a chance to escape to at the beginning of this saga. This time the Hulk really does want to leave, but with Caiera at his side. But the new bride of the Hulk is not about to let her husband and king be left alone – not when the blood he bled brought vegetation back to the land, and especially not after she drops the bombshell that she is pregnant with the Hulk’s son.

That last bit is a great surprise for the Hulk, but it’s basically a punch to the gut for the readers. It basically paints a bull’s-eye of Caiera’s back telling us that something really bad is about to happen to either her or her son. For some reason, comic books really seem to hate happy families, as evidenced by Peter Parker selling his marriage to the Devil, Clark Kent and Lois Lane getting unmarried via retcon, or the Hulk’s own Betty Banner having a miscarriage in the late 1980s due to the unfortunate editorial reasoning that readers wouldn’t sympathize with Betty if she was a mother. It’s a sad world that comic book families live in, and the conception of the Hulk’s son just adds to the tension as we approach the bad thing that we know is about to happen.

Unfortunate implications aside, though, this is the essence of suspense – the readers know something horrible is going to happen, while the characters remain blissfully ignorant. And with every passing happy moment, we as readers start to squirm even more because we know it’s almost all over.

The issue has some very good character moments to it. The Hulk has his people rebuild from the destruction caused by the Red king, leading Elloe to compare the toils to slavery. Miek responds that sometimes something needs to be torn down to build again, which is some more ominous foreshadowing on Pak’s part. The Hulk shows off his might even when calm by helping to get the spikes off planet and back to the cosmos where they will no longer need to feed on the living, immediately followed by hi jumping from orbit all the way to Sakaar’s surface. He naturally is greeted on the ground by Caiera, and the two share an embrace. For a moment, everything looks happy.

But then that bad thing we’ve all known was coming happens. While the crowd cheers their new king – at the high point of the Hulk’s life – the shuttle that brought the Hulk to Sakaar begins beeping. The video from Reed Richards starts playing. And a warning that the warp core has been breached goes off. The issue ends with the Hulk screaming, “Stupid. Puny. Humans!” and trying to shield Caeira from the resulting explosion. And we’re all left on the edge of our seats for another month.

This story almost hurts to read, but it hurts in a good way. We want the Hulk to finally have his happy moment, but we know it’s all about to end. And Pak, assisted again by the excellent pencils and layouts of Carlo Pagulayan, twists the knife every chance he gets. The final page isn’t a surprise, but it still leaves the reader with a tragic feeling. Now the only question is: what will be left after the smoke clears?